Dacia Logan / Sandero


Debut: 2012
Maker: Dacia
Predecessor: Logan (2005) / Sandero (2008)



 Published on 9 Jan 2013
All rights reserved. 


When Renault acquired the outdated and loss-making Romanian car maker Dacia in 1999, few people understood its significance. Today, Dacia is proved to be the best investment Renault made since Nissan. Morgan Stanley estimated the division returned a 9 percent profit margin, matching some premium car makers like Mercedes-Benz and is well ahead of Renault's own 0.4 percent. Low production cost is a main reason for its profitability, but equally important is the surprising market reception of its cars, starting from Logan to Sandero, Duster SUV and Lodgy MPV. Dacia sells about 350,000 cars a year, yet its influence is far greater than the number suggested as many more cars are sold under Renault badges. The Logan, for example, registers over 300,000 units of sales annually in both Dacia and Renault forms, and this has been true in the past 6 years without any major makeover! Not many cars can attract such a sustainable demand.

The original Logan was all about affordability and practicality. Its no-frills design, off-the-shelf parts and low production costs enabled an entry price of only €6000 at its home country or €7500 in Western Europe – that's half the price of a typical B-segment supermini! Moreover, it was known to be cheap to run and highly reliable. Performance was adequate, while handling, ride and refinement were better than expected for a cheap car. Never before a car originally designed for developing countries attracted such a strong demand in Western Europe. Many bought it instead of used superminis or the smallest A-segment minis.



The second generation Logan keeps most of these merits, but it has sorted out the biggest problem of the old car, i.e. an undesirable packaging. Instead of the 1980s folding-paper school of design, the new Logan looks far more modern and graceful. Its body shell is smoother, rounder and visually more solid. Its headlamps and subtle crease lines on fenders can be even called stylish. Varying panel gaps can still reveal its Romanian build quality, but judging on design alone it looks remarkably close to a regular European car. The only exception is the €6700 base model in Romania, which has black bumpers, white body paint and uncovered steel wheels. Western European won't accept these compromises, so their cars cost a little more (starting from €7700 in France). Worth noting is the new exterior design has a sense of SUV thanks to its tallness – the bonnet, the grille, the roof and ride height are all elevated compared with conventional cars. This is because its platform is shared with Duster SUV.

Another thing to note is that Sandero has become the hatchback version of Logan (note: the old car was built on Logan platform but with different packaging). From this picture you can see it is common to the sedan from B-pillar forward, though it runs a 45 mm shorter wheelbase, and the discard of tail reduces its length by nearly 300 mm. Being a hatchback, the Sandero is undoubtedly to be better selling in Western European countries.



Inside, the packaging is again a vast improvement. The dashboard finally has some style. The plastics are hard but not as scratchy as the past. Top-spec model even gets some faux alloy accents and graphite finish on center console. Mid-trim gets a two-tone dashboard. Space is no more than before, but it can easily shame all supermini rivals because this car is simply a class larger. It should be classified to C-segment and rivals Volkswagen Golf if not because of its price. This mean four adults can sit comfortably with good head and legroom. The boot remains at a commanding 510 liters.

Equipment level depends very much on your budget, of course. The leanest trim has neither air-con, power windows, audio/radio nor central locking, although it does have stability control to comply with EU regulations. In contrast, the top trim gets power steering and a touch-screen multimedia system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and USB/Aux input. Even fully equipped it still undercuts a base supermini.



Don't get me wrong, there is still a huge gulf separating the Dacia and the likes of Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio or Ford Fiesta in terms of styling, build quality and equipment. But because its game has been raised together with the class, its relative spartan is easier to swallow. To entry-level motorists this must be a good news.

Apart from packaging, the new Logan and Sandero have some updated engines. Renault's latest 900cc 3-cylinder turbocharged engine (TCe) joins the range from the new Clio. Its 90 horsepower and 100 pound-foot output gives the cars a lively mid-range performance, although spinning it to upper rev range will result in considerable noise and vibration, which are not as well insulated and damped as in Clio. Likewise, the 1.5dCi turbo diesel, improved from 86 to 90 hp, doesn't feel as refined as in other Renault applications, blame to the cost-saving NVH suppression here. The last engine is the carried-over 1.2-liter sohc 16V with 75 hp, which feels really dated.


Set up to deal with the rural roads of Romania and many developing countries, the duo rides on soft and long-travel suspensions. This guarantees a supple ride on rough surfaces like traditional French cars (before they turned to German route). The cheap hydraulic power steering is actually quite pleasing to use, being linearly weighted and pretty communicative. The car also grips and brakes decently. However, as a driver's car it is about as good as a Citroen 2CV. The soft suspensions and high center of gravity lead to a lot of roll into corners and a slow turn-in response. High-speed cornering lacks the composure of a proper supermini. High-speed cruising is accompanied with excessive road noise.

After all, this car is not engineered to the standard of normal cars. It is built to a budget much lower than the usual standard. For the money it asks for, its dynamics, refinement and build quality nonetheless exceed our expectation. Most important, it no longer looks as cheap as its price suggested. The sales success will undoubtedly continue, at least until rivals come up with comparable budget cars.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Logan 1.2
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4347 / 1733 / 1517 mm
2634 mm
Inline-4
1149 cc
SOHC 16 valves
-
-
75 hp
79 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/65R15
974 kg
97 mph (c)
13.5 (est)
-
Logan 1.5dCi
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4347 / 1733 / 1517 mm
2634 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1461 cc
SOHC 8 valves
Turbo
CDI
90 hp
162 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/65R15
1059 kg
107 mph (c)
11.5 (est)
-
Sandero 0.9TCe
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4058 / 1733 / 1518 mm
2589 mm
Inline-3
898 cc
DOHC 12 valves, VVT
Turbo
-
90 hp
100 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/65R15
962 kg
109 mph (c)
10.5 (est)
-




Performance tested by: -





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Logan


Sandero



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